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In This Issue

New Study Shows Fish Oil Supplementation Benefits Arthritic Patients

How to Keep Your Brain Sharp

Does Acupuncture Really Work?

Did you know?

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New Study Shows Fish Oil Supplementation Benefits Arthritic Patients

Nordic Naturals announced the results of a human trial showing beneficial effects of fish oil on pain, as well as symptom management in people with non-surgical arthritis.

The results of this study, conducted by Joseph Maroon, MD, and Jeff Bost, PAC, at the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) were presented at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Adult patients with non-surgical neck or back pain under physician's care were asked to supplement with two (2 capsules daily of ProEPA TM. Two capsules of ProEPA provide 1200 mg of omega-3 EFAs, of which 900 mg are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 200 mg are DHA (docosahexaenoi acid). After supplementing with ProEPA for an average of days, 60% of the respondents reported reduction in both overall pain and joint pain. 59% discontinued taking prescription pain medications or non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

In additional reported results, 80% of the subjects reported being satisfied with the improvement experienced from supplementing with ProEPA. 88% reported that they would continue to take the supplement. Virtually no side effects were reported, which is noteworthy in light of the recent voluntary withdrawals of two widely prescribed NSAIDs: Vioxx� (10/30/04) and Bextra� (4/07/05).

Dr. Maroon noted that they were gratified "to see such high percentage of patients who were able to stop taking their prescription NSAIDs after starting the omega-3 EFAs. Patient satisfaction exceeded 80%."

How To Keep Your Brain Sharp

Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD of The Center on Aging, Health & Humanities, is the author of 'The Mature Mind' that tells us about the new findings of how the brain has enormous plasticity-i.e. the ability to form new neurons (brain cells) and new connections between neurons. He tells us that brain plasticity does not decline with age and that it can actually increase as people get older.

He explains how the hippocampus is the part of the brain that processes information and integrates thinking and emotions. Nerve endings or dendrites, and connections between dendrites that are called synapses, increase in this area between the ages of 50 and 80. The brain is not immune to age-related changes. Brain cells "wear out" and die with age. Older adults can't process math problems as quickly as younger people, and they experience declines in short-term memory storage. However, other kinds of brain changes aren't caused by aging, but by underlying conditions, such as Alzheimer's, stroke and depression. Dr Cohen says that assuming you take care of yourself and stay healthy, you can improve mental function by doing the following:


    People who push themselves mentally can increase synaptic connections by at least 20%. They also experience increased neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons. The result is quicker thinking, better memory, etc.

    Mental challenges even can delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. He tells us about a study in The New England Journal of Medicine that reported patients at high risk for Alzheimer's who engaged in difficult mental activities, such as playing a musical instrument or word games, significantly delayed disease onset. Apparently, they built up a brain "reserve," which kept their minds robust longer.

    Choose mental activities that really push your capacities, like learning a language or instrument, doing challenging crossword puzzles, playing Scrabble or chess.


    People who exercise do better mentally and diminish the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia than those who are sedentary. Aerobic exercise in particular improves brain circulation and oxygenation. It appears to stimulate the release of chemicals in the body that increase synaptic connections as well as the formation of new neurons. He sites a study of older women that showed that those who increased their physical activity by walking had less cognitive decline and dementia over a period of six to eight years.

    More is better. Just as vigorous exercise of the brain is good for cognition, vigorous physical activity is necessary for brain health.

    Exercise for 30 to 45 minutes at least four days a week. Aerobic activities, such as brisk walking and swimming, are better for the brain than weight training. Aerobic workouts improve cardiovascular fitness, which is thought to increase networks of blood vessels in the frontal part of the brain and stimulate the release of chemicals that improve brain cell survival and plasticity.


    Dr. Cohen says that older adults who work hard to get good at something experience feelings of empowerment and control. These feelings produce higher levels of T cells and natural killer cells-immune cells that battle disease and help keep brain tissue and blood vessels robust.

    One study compared 150 older adults, average age of 80, who were involved in rigorous arts programs with a comparable group not enrolled in the programs. People in the arts group met weekly for a period of about nine months a year for two years and completed between-session assignments. Many of those in the arts group showed no physical or mental health declines during the study. Some showed significant improvement.Those who didn't participate in the arts programs tended to have a reduction in overall mental health.

    It's less important what you do - it could be embroidery, learning how to paint or understanding your computer-than learning to do it well.


    Dr. Cohen says that it isn't true that some people are "right-brained" and others are "left-brained." He says that we use both sides of our brain throughout life, but younger adults are more likely to use only one side at a time-for things such as reading, recognizing patterns, etc. After middle age, however, people are more likely to use both sides simultaneously. This is probably a protective mechanism that allows the brain to overcome some degenerative changes associated with aging. Older adults who cultivate this capacity have quicker reaction times and improved cognitive abilities.

    He says that creative activities draw on both the right and left sides of the brain and improve the ability of both sides to work together. He suggests taking drawing classes, joining a book club or even writing your autobiography.


    Dr. Cohen reminds us that close relationships are important throughout life, particularly for older adults. People who maintain active social schedules like going to church, getting together with friends and spending time with family, have lower blood pressure and less risk of stroke. They have lower levels of stress hormones, the chemicals that damage brain tissue and increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

    He tells us of new findings that older adults experience negative emotions less often, including fear and anger, which interfere with relationships, than younger people. Imaging studies show that the amygdalae (the parts of the brain that generate some of our most intense emotions) get less active with age. We experience less intense negative emotions as we get older, but positive ones remain robust. We have an improved capacity to ride out emotional storms that often ruin relationships.

    He recommends spending time with people you really care about. Volunteer and get involved in your community. Even people who describe themselves as wallflowers during their younger years often find that social connections get easier and more rewarding later in life. And they help keep your brain healthy.

Does Acupuncture Really Work?

Dr. Isador Rosenfeld reports that more than 8 million Americans at one time or another have turned to acupuncture therapy for relief from pain or other distress. Today, thousands of acupuncturists-as well as medical doctors, dentists and other health professionals who have learned this technique-are using it to treat everything from migraines to nausea, menstrual cramps to tennis elbow, asthma to addiction.

He tells us that in 1996, the Food and Drug Administration approved acupuncture needles for licensed practitioners, with the requirement that the needles be sterile, nontoxic and disposed of after a single use. The needles are hair-thin and introduced under the skin at one or more specific sites. When properly done under sterile conditions, acupuncture is safe and relatively painless.

Dr Rosenfeld explains that according to Chinese practitioners, the body's vital energy (qi) is carried by two opposing forces-yin and yang-that flow through specific pathways called meridians. Yin reflects qualities that are cold, slow and passive; yang's qualities are hot, excited and active. When the balance between them is disturbed and the flow of qi is interrupted, symptoms develop. It is believed that acupuncture needles, when placed at the appropriate site, alleviate symptoms by restoring normal flow within the meridians.

He goes on to say that one widely accepted medical explanation of acupuncture's claimed efficacy is that when needles prick the skin, they cause the brain to release a variety of pain-killing neural chemicals, such , as endorphins, encephalin and other opioids. The expectation of relief alone may induce the same response in the brain-the placebo effect. By whatever mechanism, modern imaging techniques have shown that acupuncture does stimulate certain areas within the brain and suppress others.

He refers to the studies reported earlier this year in The Lancet Neurology. 960 migraine patients responded to acupuncture and conventional drug therapy more significantly than they did to sham therapy. Also, in recent research done at the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture was found to ease the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia (a chronic disorder characterized by musculoskeletal discomfort) much more so than did a simulated procedure in which needles touched the skin but did not penetrate it.

Did you know?

  • Some drugs can trigger Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) which is a rare skin disease. SJS usually appears within one week of starting a new medicine. The symptoms include welts and pimplelike bumps, and red blotches, either in one area of the body or all over. It is possible for eyes to turn red and eyelids may swell. Persistent fever or flulike symptoms is also possible. The most common medicines known to cause SJS include drugs containing sulfa, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, anticonvulsants and drugs to treat gout.
  • Weight-bearing activities that involve the large muscle groups of your lower body usually help you drop pounds the fastest. For example, stair climbing on a machine or a flight of stairs can be a steady calorie burner. The more weight you support by holding onto the exercise machine, the fewer calories you'll burn. Sports that involve a good amount of running, like soccer and basketball, are recommended. Other alternatives include setting your treadmill on an incline or adding spurts of uphill jogging to your routine.
  • According to the Washington-based Institute of Medicine, a non-profit advisory group for health and science issues, 1 in 5 Americans now use some form of 'alternative' therapy, up from 1 in 50 in 1990. With almost daily news of dangers of certain prescription drugs, along with increased awareness that the medical establishment is under the pressures of Big Business, turning to 'true traditional medicine' is becoming commonplace.
  • Organic food sales are growing by 8% to 10% a year. That's twice as fast as food sales in general.

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In Good Health.
Pamela Nathan

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